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Fake Listings on Vacation Rental Websites Will Ruin Your Holiday

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Fake Listings on Vacation Rental Websites Will Ruin Your Holiday

No matter the time of the year, people are always on the hunt to find a great deal on their next vacation. With a quick google search and a few clicks, it’s easy to find a myriad of affordable vacation rental websites to suit your travel needs.

A few of the most popular rental websites include Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Booking.com, Trulia and Zillow. Now, even travel booking websites such as Expedia and Hotels.com have jumped on the bandwagon, allowing people to post their own properties for rent.

Not surprisingly, this global phenomenon is on the rise with Airbnb alone operating in 191 countries and over 100,000 cities with nearly 6 million rental properties to choose from. You can filter on price, the number of guests, amenities, and type of space, making vacation rental websites a very convenient way to book your holiday accommodations.

Increasing, vacationers are defrauded and end up losing thousands of dollars.

However, these popular rental websites are now teeming with fake listings created by fraudsters who use a variety of techniques to fool eager and cost conscious vacationers. The most common frauds include creating false listings of non-existing properties using stock photos, using real home addresses occupied by unsuspecting owners and duplicating popular listings of real properties.

To circumvent the integrated payment platform, fraudsters often request a direct deposit to their bank accounts and fabricate an elaborate excuse as to why the user cannot pay through the website’s much safer payment system.

Picture this: You book a house at a sunny destination that is right on the beachfront, you knock on the door and ask for your host “Richard”. The confused homeowners look at you and tell you there’s no one here by that name and that they don’t even have their home listed on a holiday rental website. When you try to call your “host’s” phone number for an explanation, there’s no answer. You are now out of pocket for the fraudulent accommodation and have no place to stay in a foreign city.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case.

So, what can these rental websites do about listings fraud?

Fortunately, there is a solution. GeoGuard has developed sophisticated geolocation software that can determine the exact location of any mobile device or computer and also detect whether the user is trying to disguise or spoof their location using various easy to access tools. GeoGuard’s technology enables the vacation rental websites to very quickly and accurately verify the actual location of the user (or host) at the time they are creating a property listing, greatly reducing the potential for listings fraud.

With GeoGuard’s technology utilized in the vacation rental website’s listing engine, the host’s actual location is assessed using the geolocation data provided from their mobile device or computer and is analyzed to determine the risk that the user is creating a fraudulent listing.

For example, if a host is geolocated on or near the property that is being listed, they are most likely real and thus pose a low-risk for fraud. Alternatively, if the host is geolocated somewhere completely different from the property or is found to be spoofing their location via a VPN, DNS Proxy or fake GPS location app, the host would be flagged as being high-risk.

This flag could trigger a second, more stringent level of host/listing authentication by the vacation rental website, greatly reducing the potential for listings fraud and saving the unsuspecting consumer from not only an economic loss, but also a ruined holiday!

The location data from the person creating the listing is collected and analyzed in real-time and is also checked against a historical location database to identify and flag a variety of high risk data points. By verifying the user or host’s actual location and detecting location spoofing, vacation rental websites can quickly identify potential fraudsters and put a stop to their illegal activities. The integration of geolocation-based risk analysis into the vacation rental website’s listing engine can make a significant impact to eliminating listing fraud.

With the benefits of geolocation-based fraud detection, vacationers can enjoy a well-deserved holiday and legitimate hosts can fully gain from the sharing economy.